RENO — Nevada wildlife officials, who have dealt with a record number of bear complaints this year, are considering holding the state’s first black bear hunting season.
The state’s bear population might support a hunting season but further study is needed, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners was told Friday. About 300 adult bears live in the state, primarily around Lake Tahoe.
“It’s a hunter recreation opportunity. We believe there is a harvestable surplus of bears out there,” said Kevin Lansford, wildlife staff specialist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
But experts warned commissioners not to look at hunting as a way to deal with bears raiding neighborhoods. Such bears typically spend their lives close to homes, while a hunt probably would be restricted to wild bears in the backcountry, they said.
“Having a bear hunt will have very little, if any, impact on nuisance bears,” said Russ Mason, the department’s game division chief.
Department biologist Carl Lackey agreed: “We’re almost dealing with two distinct bear populations.”
Wildlife officials have received hundreds of phone calls this year about bears raiding residential areas in the Reno-Tahoe area, where a drought has drastically reduced their natural food sources.
More than a dozen bears have been killed by authorities after entering homes, and a record 75 bears have been struck and killed by vehicles in the area, the Lake Tahoe-based BEAR League reports.
Unlike California and other states, Nevada has never had a bear hunting season.
Department officials were directed to report to the commission when it meets in February in Las Vegas, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
Because state lawmakers would have to establish fees for bear tags, the earliest a season could begin is 2010.
Approval of a bear hunt could be controversial and require substantial public relations outreach, said Kenneth Mayer, department director.
“This is a fairly passionate issue with a lot of people,” Mayer said.
Commissioner David McNinch expressed concern about reports of citizens making backcountry food drops for bears.
“It’s not a good thing to do, but those activities are ramping up every day,” he said.